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Artisan Profile: Meet Lola Lely

On the run-up to Chelsea Flower Show 2019, we’ve been interviewing the artists soon to be exhibiting in the Artisan Area. In this issue Lola Lely shares her creative influences.


 

LOLA LELY

HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE AN ARTIST?

I’ve always enjoyed spending my time lost in creative pursuit. When I was a child, I wanted to be a fashion designer. In my teens, I thought about being a costume designer. As far back as I can remember, I have always been designing and making.

I have been very lucky, in that I have had such an interesting and diverse career. I’m never bored or at a loss as to what to do with my time. I’ve been a tattoo artist, a graphic designer, a furniture designer/maker, and now I work a lot with textiles and natural dyes. I’m always evolving!


HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK?

My work has a strong sense of form with a lot of subtle detailing. There also tends to be some element of colour involved. I love the combination of natural materials with simple forms and silhouettes. You can see a clear example of this in my ‘Potluck’ stools. These cylindrical-shaped objects are made from turned wood, which I then paint onto like a three-dimensional canvas.


WHERE DO YOU WORK AND HOW DOES THIS SPACE FEED INTO YOUR WORK?

I work from my two storey studio and workshop in Walthamstow, East London. My design studio has huge north-facing windows, which is ideal because it  does not have the dreaded the effects of the sun moving through the studio at different angles during the day. It’s perfect for seeing colour clearly when I’m making my natural dyes and grinding pigments for paints. The downstairs workshop is where I make my prototypes. This is where I am free to make as much dust and noise as I want!

WHAT INSPIRES YOUR DESIGN?

Nature is a big inspiration. I’m love all forms of nature: rocks, plants, flowers and vegetables. I have used vegetables as printing tools, and of course, I make all of my dyes from plants and vegetable skins.  

I am also inspired by the traditional crafts of Asia – mainly from Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam. My favourite artists are Brancusi, William Morris, Issey Miyaki, and Ethel Mairet (a weaver and early natural dye pioneer).


WHAT PIECE HAS BEEN THE MOST FUN TO CREATE SO FAR?

I was the artist in residence at the William Gallery in 2018. It was a great experience and I got to experiment with a lot of new block printing processes. I also created a pamphlet in the tradition of William Morris, entitled “Things to Use, Things to Love”. I collaborated with a talented illustrator for this and the pamphlet was recently published by Rouge Trade Books. The pamphlet is now on display, as part of the permanent collection at The William Morris Gallery in London.


WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW THIS YEAR?

I’ve never visited the Chelsea Flower Show before, but I have always wanted to. I’m hoping to share my process and my love of natural dyes and handmade paints with a new audience. I’ll be holding some demonstrations and I’ll have lots of examples of my latest textile works on display.